TCL 5-Series with Google TV vs Amazon Fire TV Omni: Which should you buy?
These two affordable TVs focus on features—but which is best?
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With the rise of internet-connected smart TVs comes a newfound emphasis on a TV’s web-based features. As a result, manufacturers of mid-range TVs are turning toward software as a means of setting these models apart from the competition. Enter the TCL 5-Series with Google TV and the Amazon Fire TV Omni: two budget-friendly TVs that make up for their average picture performance with smart platforms built for modern times.
The 5-Series is all about Google TV, a relatively new smart platform with flexibility in mind, while the Fire TV Omni leans hard into Amazon’s personal smart home assistant, Alexa. Despite similar prices and philosophies, these two affordable TVs are vastly different, and understanding how they compare is the key to figuring out which of the two is the right fit for your home.
Before we take a look at their respective prices, note that these are the original price points of these TVs and not necessarily the prices you’ll encounter while shopping today. Both TVs have seen discounts, but there’s no guarantee that these sale prices will stick around. For now, let’s compare the original price points of each respective series.
- 50-inch (TCL 50S546), MSRP $599.99
- 55-inch (TCL 55S546), MSRP $649.99
- 65-inch (TCL 65S546), MSRP $899.99
- 75-inch (TCL 75S546), MSRP $1,299.99
The 5-Series is available in four sizes ranging from 50 to 75 inches. It’s enough of a selection for most folks, but maybe not if you're eyeing a bedroom TV. From a price standpoint, the 5-Series is firmly a mid-range TV—it’s not the cheapest option available, but it’s affordable enough to prevent sticker shock.
Next, let’s take a look at the Amazon Fire TV Omni.
Amazon Fire TV Omni:
- 43-inch (Amazon 4K43M600A), MSRP $409.99
- 50-inch (Amazon 4K50M600A), MSRP $509.99
- 55-inch (Amazon 4K55M600A), MSRP $559.99
- 65-inch (Amazon 4K65M600A), MSRP $829.99
- 75-inch (Amazon 4K75M600A), MSRP $1,099.99
The Omni comes in the same four sizes as the 5-Series, but there’s an additional 43-inch model to choose from, too. Like the 5-Series, the Omni is very much a mid-range TV, but it’s slightly more affordable than the 5-Series at retail price. Given the lower price and the added flexibility of a 43-inch model, the Omni takes this round handily.
Our pick: Amazon Fire TV Omni
Being budget-friendly, mid-range TVs, the 5-Series and the Omni don’t exactly sport posh exteriors with flashy flourishes. Despite their garden-variety designs, however, there are a few notable differences between the two.
The TCL 5-Series features a medium-thick, charcoal-colored panel that’s held up by two boomerang-shaped feet fixed at the panel’s bottom corners. The positioning leaves a moderate amount of space below the TV for a dedicated soundbar.
The Fire TV Omni is nearly the same: a somewhat chunky, gray-colored panel propped up by narrow, angular feet positioned close to the edge of the TV. One difference, however, is that the Omni offers a bit more space beneath the display for a soundbar. In addition, the Omni also features a physical switch below the Fire TV insignia that toggles the TV’s far-field microphone on and off.
Their remote controls are similar, too. Both are slim, rounded remotes that feature a navigation wheel at the top and dedicated app buttons at the bottom, and both feature microphones for voice-activated features.
You might find that one of these TVs suits your living space a bit better than the other, but for the purposes of this exercise, we’re calling it a draw.
Our pick: Draw
Features and smart platform
In many ways, the 5-Series and the Omni are defined by their extra features. The differences between them, therefore, should heavily inform your shopping decisions. But before we dive into the differences, let’s take a look at some of their shared specifications.
Both TVs support High Dynamic Range (HDR), but the 5-Series’ support is much stronger. Every size in the 5-Series lineup supports Dolby Vision, a proprietary version of HDR that, due to its strict criteria, is considered by many to be the gold standard of the format. Meanwhile, Dolby Vision is only available on the 65- and 75-inch models of the Fire TV Omni. If you fancy yourself a film nerd and you’re not shopping for a 65- or 75-inch TV, this is worth keeping in mind.
On the audio side of things, both the 5-Series and the Omni support Dolby Atmos by way of ARC/eARC HDMI passthrough, either in the uncompressed format (Dolby TrueHD) or the compressed format (Dolby Digital Plus). Of the two, only the 5-Series can decode the format natively, giving the 5-Series a slight edge here.
When it comes to gaming, neither TV supports 4K gaming at 120fps due to their limited hardware. And although the Omni offers one HDMI 2.1 port while the 5-Series does not, the 5-Series maintains a distinct advantage in the gaming department thanks to its inclusion of Auto Low Latency (ALLM) and Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) across all of the series’ sizes.
The Fire TV Omni does not feature VRR at all, meaning the TV won't adjust to the frame rate of your favorite game, and like Dolby Vision, ALLM is only offered in the 65- and 75-inch versions of the Omni.
But perhaps the biggest difference between these two TV experiences lies with their smart features. The 5-Series with Google TV is a Google-based experience through and through. The once-Android-based software has been given a sleek, streamlined refresh. This makes it an easier-to-navigate version of Android TV, complete with easy access to a vast library of installable apps. Being a Google TV, the 5-Series also comes with built-in Chromecast functionality, which allows you to cast content up to the screen from a mobile device.
The Omni, on the other hand, aims to make your TV the central component of an Alexa-integrated smart home. While Alexa functionality in TVs is not entirely new, the Omni is the first TV designed to fit within a smart home ecosystem. You can ask Alexa to search for your favorite shows and apps, make adjustments to your Omni’s settings, or jump from one program to another. If you happen to own a Ring Video Doorbell, the Omni can even display a live feed via picture-in-picture without interrupting your favorite programming.
Most of the Fire TV Omni’s most promising features are still forthcoming (though Amazon has suggested that they’re right around the corner). These include a “Smart Home Dashboard” that is claimed to make it easy to oversee Alexa-connected devices in your home, “Alexa Home Theater,” which will allow users to wirelessly pair Amazon Echo speakers, and Zoom integration, which will eventually give users the option to make and receive Zoom calls with a USB-connected webcam. While we haven’t tested these features yet, their appeal to Alexa users is unmistakable if/when they arrive.
Although the Fire TV Omni is undeniably a better option for Alexa acolytes, its feature suite is unfinished at this point, and the 5-Series with Google TV offers more support for A/V enthusiasts and gamers alike. Both smart platforms are relatively easy to use, but pound for pound, the 5-Series is a better fit for a wider range of people.
Our pick: TCL 5-Series
A TV’s picture is mostly dependent on the hardware sitting behind the display, and the 5-Series is outfitted with some impressive tech—especially given its price. For a not-so-ridiculous amount of money, the 5-Series offers quantum dots for an added punch of color, as well as full-array local dimming for contrast control. The Omni, on the other hand, does not have quantum-dot color, nor does it offer local dimming.
These differences in display hardware are reflected in the performance of these two TVs. Thanks to contrast control zones, the 5-Series is much better at allocating light to keep brighter picture elements in check during darker scenes. The 5-Series is also much more colorful thanks to its inclusion of quantum dots; the display covers about 93% of the extra-wide HDR color gamut (DCI-P3), while the Fire TV Omni's only covers about 73% of that color space.
But perhaps the biggest advantage the 5-Series has over the Omni is its ability to get bright and stay bright. In our lab tests, we regularly measured highlights on the 5-Series’ between 500 and 600 nits in HDR. The Omni, on the other hand, hardly cracked 350 nits. In fact, the Omni was so dim in HDR that there was barely a perceptible difference between standard (SDR) content and content mastered for the HDR format.
The Fire TV Omni is a fine option for folks who plan on setting up their TV and never touching the picture settings again, but if you care about performance—particularly HDR performance—this one’s a no-brainer.
Our pick: TCL 5-Series
And the winner is…
In every category except price, the TCL 5-Series with Google TV is as good or better than the Amazon Fire TV Omni. It offers superior performance, more robust functionality, and a smart platform that suits a wider range of users.
That said, there is one demographic that might get more out of the Omni than they would the 5-Series: people who already use Alexa. If your living space is already set up to make the most of Amazon’s suite of smart home products, you might find a good companion in the form of a TV that slots right into that existing ecosystem. It’s true that several of the platform’s key features have yet to be rolled out, but there’s every indication that Amazon plans on supporting the Fire TV Omni for years to come.
But if you want a better TV for movies, gaming, and good ol’ fashioned channel-surfing, the 5-Series is worth the small up-charge. It’s the better all-around TV for most people.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.